When I create what I would consider "Performance Art" it is a far cry from my dancing that is known all over the world. While the dancing is artistic and performance based, for my purposes its many manifestations loosely fall into overlapping categories of dance, drama, action sports and clowning. I realize when having to write about this latest performance/video installation project that for some gut based reason it is only the really hard to process performance work, the type of performance that leans on the audience, that I would describe without hesitation as "Performance Art." When it comes to real down and dirty "Performance Art", the ART and my life are intertwined so closely that it would be nearly impossible for me to write about or consider them independently.
ABOVE: Invisible Series #4 NEW ANGLES AND FOOTAGE
While I might describe what I do as “creating” performance art, often my experiences have more to do with “channeling” a presence or “manifesting” a set of interconnected feelings/beliefs that flow through me. For the past two weeks month three months and counting I have been hesitating on posting up the writing I have done about this recently completed video installation titled, "Invisible Series #4." After writing about this new work over two weeks a month three months ago I realized that I was crossing over into unfamiliar territory. My previous post about this work reveals in brief my challenging situation as a creative. I know of artist whom if you ask, What is the work about?, or, How does the work happen?, they just say "I dont know". I dont ever have that answer. When a work is complete I have always an understanding of its relationsip to the rest of my works as an interdisciplinary artist and concepteur. My answer for this work is, in short, the human body and the human mind are vulnerable to breakdown and can even fail ones own notions of oneself. The mind as does the body must in certain situations give up and call for help. This is what this piece is ultimately about; My Extreme Mental and Physical Fatigue, My Resignation and most significantly My Call for Help. I say most significantly because, as you may not have surmised, I have grown up from early childhood pushing help away. Symbolically, the bell I ring that is in the shape of an Owl, signifies the nighttime, a time of my greatest creative strength. The bell was a gift form my grandmother who was a teacher. Among other things she taught me how to appreciate the ringing of a bell. It is a crisp sound that breaks up everythign around it. A bell is a wakeup call. I am a creative who works at night. I protect my creative time and in this work have in a sense waved the flag of surrender to a spiritual emotional and mental territory I have become so fatigued by that I can barely move.
ABOVE: Owl Bell Detail
The ultimate lesson of my life as reflected in this work is, just because you dance on crutches and embrace your disease successfully once in your life does not mean that the next ugly challenge that impacts your life will work out the same way. Sometimes help from the outside is the best thing. I have been stubborn in this regard, relying on my previous patterns of survival and triumph to overextend into new territory. Arrogance is the approptiate term really. I imagine myself stronger and more capapble than I actually am. My conceptual round up of the work here, in text, is a retrospective take on the impetus behind Invisible Series #4 and is thus a framing device for me to understand it. For #4 I started out with a history to the series, then the choices of the set, lighting, costume sculptural arrangement and sound. From this technically and symbolically weighted place I let go as a "Performance Artist." I should stress, I only really understood what the work was after it happened to me. While I was in the work I did not really know where I was going. This is in keeping with my generally indeterminate nature of listening, following and possibly riding the waves of influences that hit me. Now that I know where I went, I realize how important this work is to me. This framing process of language is more for me not for you, dear reader. I have hesitated too long for the timeliness of whatiswhat. I cannot move on to other material that is deep until I have let this one go. When i struggle to understand my own creations everything gets backed up creatively and I cave in to a general listlessness. Like a wild animal in the headlights frozen, I have more material than I now what to do with yet cannot move because an earlier work has not been fully digested. I have been stuck on this work with everything piling up around me. I will share this writing with new video. I might talk to you in person about this work to a greater extent but for now this is my final entry on Invisible #4. Its been a long time thinking about it and I feel I have reached a good place with it. As good as it will ever get I imagine.
So. To begin with, my appreciation of professional help is something I will now publicly acknowledge. This feeling has not stood the test of time but has impressed me in the present moment as the help I have received has transformed my daily state of happiness. I have never really liked doctors and have found my cure for walking while negotiating hip deformity and pain in spite of doctors. Recently however a doctor has gotten me a good way through possibly the worst challenge to my health I have ever faced. [deleted passage] .. There is always someone who will look upon writing about the work as my life in a personal way as a weakness or as navel gazing and eccentric or selfish. If you are that person why have you read this far? Furthermore, people love to take quotes out of context and so I have deleted entire passages as TMI. I am not looking for pity or recognition. In my eyes the process is what it is and I dont take credit or deny it. While Invisible #4 became about "fatigue" and "surrender to help", this was ironically after so much work about showing how "Help" might in certain instances be an obstacle yet on a completely different plane. This shift in my life has really taken me to the depths of questioning who I am. I have decided that what I am is a conceptually driven interdisciplinary performance artist, not a dancer, not a choreographer, not a sociological anthropologist, not a phenomenologist, not a philosopher, not an idealogue, not an activist, not a cultural theorist, not a linguist, not an academic, not a video installation artist, not a writer, not a busker, not a monolgist, not an actor or clown, not a sculptor or designer. I am none of these things because what I am will not let me rest within any one of them. It as if I have no real identity. Just what exactly does a conceptually driven interdisciplinary performance artist do? Or not do? I am still trying to work that out. In the meantime my self definition is for all practical purposes, meaningless.
Ultimately, This work, Invisible #4 is the result of going to a place that I reach in my creative process where I really let go of the reigns of consciousness. I am speaking of a place of extreme fatigue. I wrote about this in an earlier post but from an entirely different context. In this state of delirium from lack of sleep I become slower to react but with a dreamlike consciousness that allows for some sort of immeasurable higher thinking to break through and provide moments of intense clarity. This video of my performance was shot after two days and two nights of solid work while not sleeping and taking in pain meds as needed. I never know going in exactly why things happen the way they do but in this work everything happened as it should have. Though I was very, very tired and behind on many other projects that actually put food on the table I felt relieved to have gotten it out of my system. Looking back at it I see many angles and reasons that the work happened to me. I rarely, almost never, really talk about my pain. I deal with it all the time but it is mine, not something I talk about a lot to you my reader, viewer, audience. [deletion of passage] When folks see my dancing and skateboarding or see me walk short distances they seem to readily assume that there is nothing wrong. I have said often in my monologue presentations that I give the spectacle of miraculous transformation of disability into a thing of beauty and then I sink into a giant bag of ice and pain for days and sometimes weeks afterward. These past weeks have been a real eye opener to see what I have to look forward to. In the video, taken from an hours long take, I dropped a pill for rheumatoid arthritis and could not move to pick it up because I was just too tired. I was the truth in that moment and that’s what I try and get to everytime. In the making of this work, I am so tired I can hardly hold my arm up and ring a bell for an extended period of time. The video depicts real fatigue not acting like I am fatigued. I cannot write further without mentioning an important piece by a group that influenced me years ago. They were called Goat Island Theater. They performed a piece called "Its Shifting Hank" and it had some moments of physical fatigue in it that were very real. This was different than being up for many hours but it still was a big influence on how I saw performance art as less acting more endurance and immersion. Everything seen in the work has meaning and metaphor.
The shoes are a metaphor. I have had them for many years in different configurations. They are yellow shell toes for steel workers placed over blue hospital shoes for feet that are in plaster casts. The shoes are topped around the shin with spine straightening gravity boots. The metaphor of the shoes; protect your pain from harsh environments not by avoiding the environment but by adjusting your strategies. The gravity boot designed to invert the body symbolizes a new inversion of my philosophy of healing from one of self-reliance and distrust of medical figures to one of absolute trust and reliance. I am no longer entering harsh environments by modification of my strategies, I am simply staying out of harsh environments. As an artist I engage a wide spectrum of mental and physical territory and I develop strategies to navigate these territories to understand them and ultimately “own” them. The problem is, as shown in the Invisible #4 video installation, there is no guarantee of a win and that navigating alien landscapes looking for an end to your inner dialogue without a tether to the mothership can get you swallowed up quick. In case of absolute mental and physical fatigue Ring the Bell and accept a big FAIL and maybe if you get the right person to your side you can find a kickstand to hold your head up and some kind of flotation algorhythm to keep moving. Content wise. I am still not done with this. Its not over. I wish I could say it was. I wrote below months ago that I turned a corner but that corner ended up being a mirage. My next sculptural video installation project is being planned now. I hope that it will help me move past Invisible #4. The next work will not be #5. I have to take some time away from the Invisible series.
ABOVE: Footwear For Invisible Series
so beyond the content.. there is the tech.
scratch that tech is completely irrelevant to this post. .. relatively boring the tech still is a very important component that I am immersed in.
The goal of the approach here was to push the spatial element of the screen configuration and take advantage of the infinitely configurable rigging gear. To this end much time was spent working on where the screens were placed to achieve a …balance of form… this was a blue screen process of negating the content and letting the shapes work for themselves regardless of their content. Furthermore I should note that I was limited by the existing shapes and could not go larger and could only go smaller by breaking the larger ones down. These limitations also played into the creation of the form. In the images below Invisible #4 is shown as a blue floating form. Another concern was that the work was a freestanding piece. No strings, no projectors on the floor or walls… just the rigging holding the screens and the projectors and all of the cable running directly underneath to the player and power supply. This goal demanded a much larger build and was challenging in its limitations that it set upon the projection angles, cones and overlap. Furthermore the lighting of the set involved all sorts of real jerry-rigging of lights from all sources as you can see in the image I was using mic stands, shopping carts and pieces of furniture to hold, clamp, lock or diffuse lighting.
The other challenging aspect was the video play-back which I have yet to absolutely perfect. As you can see in the video there is a randomized fall into synch. Of the separate tracks creating a cascading effect. Thankfully the work is so abstract that this cascading of the video does not hurt the result.. The bell ringing seems to invite the breaking up of the imagery. The abstracted body falls into place in a way that gives the last frame to fall into place just the focus it needs. There are tweaks to this element that I have not delved into including lowering the bit rate of each individual track to reduce the demands on the players drives which in turn would allow it to push all the tracks closer together. There is more but trust me its very very very booooring.. Will, the tech assist on this work, had built a motion detection device but we ended up not applying it because the loop was so short that the detection of motion would not matter relating to the viewers experience of the work. Another cut part of this work was an additional take where I am speaking into the camera about healing strategies.. it is very humorous for me to watch because I am so delirious I really make absolutely no sense. I am using these flash cards and improvising around some basic truths I hold for what each card symbolizes but I sound so incredibly slow and illogical that it only made good comedy and only as an inside joke at that. So, finally I should note that the technical component of this work has also been created with the idea that it could be used in a live context by disconnecting the player and running the video cable to micro-cameras arranged behind the screens to recreate the planar relationships the screens manifest. In the live application I would sit within the body of the rigging of the work on a chair at a desk in front of seven micro-cameras. I would be lit by focused directional lights from the front and side. Viewers of the live performance would see the video on the screens then the rigging then me moving in the same real-time image in effect creating a layered collage of visual information.. I would also be on microphone and performing some sort of material on the table and to the house, I know not what until I get there to that moment in time. Where it will happen upon me that this is what is now... not now.. now.. now..etc. etc. etc